Written by World Vision Staff; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
Marianny was only 12 years old when she began her athletics journey in western Dominican Republic. Coming from a competitive family of five brothers and one sister, the now 17-year-old had one great desire: to become a short-distance runner.
A humble beginning
But her beginnings were not always glamorous. Sporting jeans and whatever shirt was lying around, Marianny would run by herself in a nearby soccer field. "I started training barefoot,” she says. “My feet bothered me a lot because there were pebbles and gravel. Despite these limitations, Marianny remained committed to her goals and close to her family. “They are the most important things to me,” she shares.
In fact, Marianny nurtured her dreams of running the 100-meter dash because her brother, Yasmani, encouraged that determination in her. “My inspiration,” she says affectionately. “He was an athlete and I admired him.”
Just after two years of hard training, Marianny’s younger sister, Martha, expressed interest in joining her running routine. A sibling mentorship blossomed with the same generativity that Marianny felt when Yasmani believed in her.
“I saw potential and talent in her,” says Marianny. “I thought, ‘I want to be great, but my sister also has the right to be great.’”
Training takes focus. Marianny and Martha getting into the zone before the championship race. Photo: World Vision
Hurdles and obstacles
Fast-forward five years to Marianny and Martha both getting ready to compete at the short-distance championship race in Cuba. They’re here because World Vision has sponsored them, both as athletes and through child sponsorship.
“World Vision has been with me since I was little,” Marianny says. “They have also encouraged us a lot, they have believed in us.”
Martha and Marianny prepared all they could for the championship race, but just before it began, they ran into the unexpected:
“When I arrived, they told me that I had to compete with the high fence,” she says. Running hurdles was not a race she prepared for.
“At first, I got a little discouraged. I lost faith, but my coach encouraged me, saying, 'Obstacles will always exist, [but] we must always face them with great faith, optimism.’ I remembered those words. When I entered the track I ran, and came out victorious.”
Now, Marianny holds the national youth record for 100-meter dash with hurdles.
Competing gave Marianny a newfound confidence in herself, allowing her to continue to push beyond her limits. "Sports teaches me discipline. It teaches me to win, it teaches me to lose. It teaches me to get up every time I fall.”
Growing up together, training together, now racing together–these sisters share a special bond. Photo: World Vision
Having gone through such a formative athletic experience, Marianny is determined to encourage younger athletes in her hometown. “There are still children training barefoot there right now,” she says. “I would really love a training track. That would be more motivation for them.”
With her home-grown heart leading her, and her sibling’s support, Marianny’s generous spirit is what motivates her to give back. In addition to her sprinting goals, Marianny is eager to study psychology in university. With her experience and her dreams for other youth in her community, there’s no telling where she’ll run to next.